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Potential sales tax for schools, library, parks approved in Homewood

The Homewood Village Board, at its Jan. 23 meeting, approved a 0.25 percent sales tax should the home rule referendum be approved by voters in March. 
The tax bump aims to help other taxing bodies in the village with limited abilities to increase revenue. 
The money would be distributed to School Districts 153, 161 and 233, the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District and the Homewood Public Library. District 153 would receive 70 percent of that revenue and each of the other governmental bodies would get 7.5 percent.
“Here’s another opportunity where they are passing on a tax increase that will directly benefit our schools and libraries,” home rule supporter Tabitha Stine said. “We are in no shape (in state government) to ever get back to the funding mechanisms that Springfield used to provide for us so we have to provide for ourselves. So, I’m 100 percent in favor of that tax measure.”
A referendum on the March 20 ballot will put the question of home rule to Homewood residents. Home rule gives a municipal government more control, rather than accepting decisions made by the state government. 
“While I understand that the intent is well meaning in regards to health and safety, the reality (of home rule) is a destructive and downward spiral,” said Jen Sjoblom, a home rule opponent. “As a home rule community the village would have the ability to expand the budget through increased taxation. The funding always comes from the people. Right now, as a non-home rule community there is a true safeguard in regards to taxation.”
Home rule municipalities have an increased ability to tax, fine, regulate and take on debt. However, the Homewood board approved three ordinances in December that would limit those powers. 
The first caps property tax increases at the same levels currently in place. The second limiting ordinance requires a seven-day notice to residents before any board vote on a tax increase and then a two-thirds majority vote of trustees is required, rather than a simple majority. The third limits the amount of debt the village could incur to the same levels it holds to as a non-home rule municipality.
Critics say those limitations aren’t enough.
“A hearing and two-thirds vote mean nothing,” Mark Myers said. “Most mayors, once they get in, have control of their trustees within four years or they run some other people until they have control of the board and can do whatever they want. So, two-thirds and a public hearing mean nothing to me.”
Myers is part of a group campaigning against home rule.
“It’s an issue of will the board overdo it, either in taxes or in any other aspect of what home rule allows you to do,” Brian Quirke, a home rule supporter, said. “These people have not overdone their power ever. Ever. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think it ever could happen, but our track record so far is pretty good.”

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